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Friday, Mar. 23, 2007 at 9:51 am

Have Something to Say? “I Don’t Care” says Joel Stein

By Jeffrey Eisenberg
March 23rd, 2007

Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times says in his column that he doesn’t care.

“Here’s what my Internet-fearing editors have failed to understand: I don’t want to talk to you; I want to talk at you. A column is not my attempt to engage in a conversation with you….” read the rest of his column

I admire his courage.

I do care. What do you think about what Joel Stein has to say in his column?

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Comments (23)

  1. Joel Stein is Joel Stein. He has a right to not care. There are plenty of bloggers who don’t really get involved in “the conversation.” They’re just publishing their own columns without the aid of the LATimes. It comes down to a writer’s (or a company’s) strategy and purpose. Without writers like Joel Stein, some people couldn’t figure out what to talk about over a cup of coffee.

  2. Very interesting. Joel makes some valid points.  I can appreciate why a pseudo intellectual like Joel Stein would think he is above the fodder of dolts.

    Still, in today’s market, regardless of an individual’s capabilities, background, education, and IQ, everybody wants to feel important, no one wants to be left out, as Joel implies.

    Actually, I sympathize with Joel–not being a columnist, I realize I can’t fully appreciate all of the inane comments and feedback he receives, though I’m trying.

    But I don’t think his comments make good business sense, if we take them seriously. I would ask Joel–if I thought he would respond–why he thinks blogs and online publications are increasing readership while traditional publications like The LA Times is losing readership. Because, you see, transparency and accessibility are the currency of success in today’s journalism. There’s no getting around that: it’s the nature of today’s journalism.

    The real question for journalists should be—–How do you balance transparency and accessibility with inane, stupid, and just plain pointless comments and posts by your readers? Maybe the answer to that is that you have your publisher or sponsor set up a blog where you, the journalist, don’t have to respond and people can enjoy their own ranting and raving at you and where you can get your friends to publicly praise and pet you —– just like Joe has done through this article!

    That’s it! You know, I think Joel did his own rant & rave in this ridiculous column just to get reactions, just to give people a forum so they can see themselves in print, just like him. Clever guy!

  3. By the way, there’s a related and interesting conversation about these issues going on over at Chris Garrett’s blog, where Chris vents his frustration over not being able to comment on Seth Godin‘s blog.

  4. I Love it. The attitude, the swagger, the opinionated audacity! Again, I love it! It’s nice to finally have my thoughts on this subject spelled out in big black letters. I can’t say it enough, I love it! And I don’t care what anyone else thinks about that.

  5. So how do you really feel William?

  6. Joel Stein’s salary doesn’t apparently depend on whether or not he responds to his readers. Some of us whose pay rises and falls with how well people like what we write don’t have the luxury of ignoring, or even insulting, our readers.

    I agree with Michael Drew that transparency and accessibility are becoming the currency of success. The average guy or gal no longer wants to be pontificated at. If you’ve chosen to express your views in a public forum, there ought to be some of way for readers to respond to what you say.

  7. and that’s WHY i don’t read joel stein and why so many of us in L.A. don’t take him seriously.

  8. Pamela, If Joel doesn’t want feedback is he entitled to a monologue as long as somebody is willing to publish him?

    Geri- I was hoping somebody from L.A. would comment. Was there a local reaction to his column?

  9. Strictly, I think Joel’s a bit of an idiot. (And I don’t even know who he is, because we’re as far from LA, as you can be).

    So why is he an idiot? Because customers aren’t just ranters. They give you a lot of ideas for future articles; for future threads. So why is he trying to make his own work harder?

    A writer thrives on feedback, simply because it gives him/her the sense of public opinion. Sitting in front of your laptop gives you only one perspective. Yesterday, I had at least three direct emails to me, based on posts, tone etc. on my blog. And while the initial response is to take all such rants personally, you have to look beyond the obvious.

    When I did look, I was able to make things better. And that’s what we’ve done on our website too. We reward feedback. We pay people $50 for the best ‘bug’ of the month–and almost everyone gets rewarded in some way for complaining.

    Sure, you’re entitled to have a monologue. But there;s the mirror, right? If you want to go to a public forum, there’s the quirky factor of ‘public.’

    Or maybe, just maybe, this is Senor Joel’s way of increasing awareness. Nothing like a blatantly raving lunatic rant to stir up the pot and increase his readership.

    I didn’t even know about the guy.
    Now I do.
    Even if I do think he’s stupid.

  10. Sean, thanks for your feedback. Is Joel Stein speaking for himself alone or is he articulating the view of many?

    To sum up; Joel isn’t making friends of and influencing our readers.

  11. He’s articulating the view of many. Many people who want to talk and never listen. But he’s a marketer. He’s selling his ideas. But when you sell, you’ve got to get feedback.

    If you sell a ‘product’ (and his column is a product), then you need to be accepting feedback. When you say: “Nyah, nyah, not listening…” you become one of those people you never want to go out with. The kind of blind-date from hell.

  12. Sean, I don’t imagine he’d be a fun date. I also don’t think he’d call himself a marketer. I imagine him slightly offended by that notion. I think he would look down his journalistic nose and tell you that his is a columnist and he is paid to tell people what he thinks. He has, and I really don’t care what he thinks but observing him is like finding a Dodo bird right before they went extinct.

  13. [...] Jeff Eisenberg in his post on Joel Stein questions whether Joel is doing the right thing? So is Joel attracting an audience? You bet his boots he is. Because polarisation can be an awesome attraction factor. Polarisation is when you completely divide two groups. You move so radically to one position, that the other group has no option but to be your volatile opposition. [...]

  14. Joel offers a contrarian view. And, of course contrarian views are ALWAYS popular, if offered at just the right time. And I think that now is exactly the right time! So, go for it Joel!

  15. Jeffrey, as you correctly pointed out, he is a columnist. Not a blogger or a marketer. Paid to write entertaining columns for his large readership, not to engage in dialogues or exchanges. I find the guy humorously entertaining, dating back to a sarcastic column on “In Defense of Domination”, written shortly after the Yankees signed A Rod. Very funny piece that questioned why we should cheer the underdogs, i.e. losers, rather than the winners who exploit the rules to their dominating advantage. After all, America loves winners, and isn’t America itself the very embodiment on a global scale of what the Yankees are in a sports microcosm? Dude’s funny, and I’ll read him for my own enjoyment regardless of the existence of a provided forum to talk back to him.

  16. A lot of the comments I think are right on- and there was one piece in his column that I thought was interesting, and deserves some thought:

    “And maybe on this site, one brave person will write about how I’m right to stand up against this world of false, easy community”

    If we think about ourselves as bloggers/forum facilitators/people in the world, and think about Joel as the customer instead of the business person/columnist/whatever- I think there is some valuable feedback- and this sentence I believe hits the core of it.

    There is an incredible ease to blogging and replying to blogs (once you get over your fear of public ‘speaking’ so to speak). There are no dues to pay- you just show up and start speaking.

    One part of successful community has to do with ease of connection- but another part of community has to do with who is ‘in’ versus who is ‘out’- a question of identity. Without identity, there can be no belonging, and without belonging, there is no intimacy- no connection, no depth.

    M. Scott Peck wrote the book ‘A Different Drum” about community-building- and the kind of easy connections on the internet seem to fall into ‘false community’ where everyone is rah-rah or being nice- or chaos- where there is a lot of flaming- belligerence, attacking.

    But the instances of true connection and community are rare.

    I know this is a business blog I’m commenting on- and I also know that people, including our customers, are longing for true connection. So, what I take from his column is something deeper- that people are longing for true community, and don’t think that this easy internet banter back and forth is really capable of meeting those deeper human needs of connection- and a flurry of email and blog comments that someone with his visibility would take up a lot of his personal space- and perhaps he’s worried that it won’t really contribute to his own personal needs.


  17. [...] Today I read at the blog about a column by Joel Stein of the LA Times (read it here.) [...]

  18. I just saw a George Carlin show. Joel sounds just like him – and I can’t say that I completely disagree with his arguements. But what if we all had bumper stickers that said “How’s My Driving” and included our cell phone numbers.

    I can almost hear the 100 car pile-up.

    In some respects, that is what a Blog is – a 100 car pile-up of ideas and opinions. Do I think journalists need the same feedback mechanism as professional truck or cab drivers? No. But I can’t help thinking it feeds the journalistic ego just a bit to know what buttons they are pushing. MAybe they Joel just doesn’t like to give people to push his.

  19. Per Wikipedia, publishing is defined as “the production and dissemination of literature or information – the activity of making information available for public view”. There is no requirement for return dialog to complete the “transation”. It is within Joel’s right to publish, as it would be any of ours,without a formal feedback mechanism in place – how could it not be? Yes, there are significant marketing benefits to seeking input – and we likely all know them. Thought leadership (and maybe Joel’s might be considered a very minor piece in that realm) does not necessarily mean putting every thought up to easy challenge. Maybe some pieces should be allowed to stand on their own – internalized, contemplated, thought provoking…

    I find Mark S’s comments quite insightful. In my estimation, merely responding to an article, or a blog, is not automatic admission to a community – but only a comment. Not good, not bad – only a comment. As marketers, our ability to connect, and create community with our customers is the true challenge (and goal).

  20. Email address should have read as above (on my previous submission)Multiple emails addresses are a pain. Sorry. Paul

  21. You can think I’m crazy (Like Joel…I don’t care), but there IS something to what he says. And yes, I think he’s being provocative (it sells). But some of you are missing the point. Did you read the part where he says that everything doesn’t HAVE to be interactive? Sure, it’s great to have feedback…there’s going to be a valuable nugget now and then. But why should I believe he owes me the right to let me respond? He writes a column. His opinion is just that. If you think his opinion is wrong or is doing harm, write the publisher, stop buying the paper, or stop reading his column. That’s your right. Interactivity is great, but does it have to exist 24/7? Those of you who believe it does probably take your laptop, your Blackberry, your ipod and your cell with you on a ‘wind-down’ vacation, don’t you? Not everyone’s afraid of being alone and not everyone needs to have feedback. Get over yourselves!
    # # #

  22. I stumbled upon a website forum that you can report your ex boyfriend or ex girlfriend and i’m wondering whether or not anyone has ever heard of it. it’s called Report Your Ex. It seems pretty cool, but I don’t know

  23. yups

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Jeffrey Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. You can friend him on Facebook.

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